Flying Officer Gerwyn Phillips (V.R.)
Gerwyn Phillips was the only child of Evan and Martha Phillips, who were well known in Cwmamman, both having served on the Town Council. Evan was an executive member of the N.U.M. and for a period, chairman of the Cwmamman Workmens Hall. Evan had played rugby for Llanelly and Amman United and later turned proffessional to play for Broughton Rangers. His wife, Martha Phillips was a former schoolteacher.
Like Evan, Gerwyn also showed promise as a rugby player in his youth. He was a pupil at Amman Valley County School at Ammanford and obtained his C.W.B. qualifications. He then passed his Civil Service exams in engineering before joining the Royal Air Force. Gerwyn had a lively personality.
Gerwyn travelled to Canada for part of his RAF training and became a Mosquito navigator. He is pictured below, standing 4th from the left.
On the 22nd of February 1945, Gerwyn and pilot Edward (Ted) Leonard Jones of Tooting, London took part in Operation Clarion, an allied bombing campaign involving approximately 9000 aircraft. The mission was particularly hazardous as it took place in daylight and involved low level flying. At 1:16 pm Gerwyn's Mosquito was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire near Herbrum, approximately 3km south of Aschendorf, Germany.
Gerwyn's parents were left in the terrible situation of not knowing whether their only son was dead or alive and sought help from their local M.P. James Griffiths who did what he could to help through his communications with Quentin Hogg of the Air Ministry. A communication from Quentin Hogg to James Griffiths dated 26th May 1945, contained no reassurance for Gerwyn's parents, stating: "....no news has been received of Flying Officer Phillips or the other member of the crew since the Mosquito aircraft in which they were flying failed to return from operations on 22nd February last."
A newspaper article from 1945 (probably the Amman Valley Chronicle), reported that Gerwyn's parents had been officially notified of his death and that Gerwyn had been buried at Herbrum two days after his plane had been brought down.
On 17th November 1945, the Central Depository of the Royal Air Force wrote to Gerwyn's father expressing deep sympathy with his bereavement and explained that they would be dealing with the RAF's part of Gerwyn's estate.
Gerwyn's father received a letter from the Imperial War Graves Commission dated 28th May 1946 telling him that they had as yet received no grave location for their son.
On the 22nd of June 1946, the Central Depository of the RAF send Gerwyn's Flying Log Book to his parents via Registered Post, in accordance with Air Military Instructions.
A letter to Gerwyn's father from the Air Ministry dated 5th July 1949 contained further news. Gerwyn Phillips had been buried at Lehe Cemetery with his pilot and two other airmen from another mosquito which had been part of the same mission. Unfortunately, following exhumation, it had only been possible to identify one of the bodies, that of Flight Lieutenant Jones, Gerwyn's pilot. It is believed that the bodies had been badly burned. The other three, one of which was Gerwyn, were re-interred at Reichswald Forest British Military Cemetery at Cleve, Germany. Gerwyn's body has been laid to rest with Flying Officers Robert James Rex Owen and George Thirlwel at collective grave 1-3 Row E, plot 14.
In 1953, a school teacher and leader of a German youth group named H. Ehman visited the Amman Valley and became engaged in a conversation with Gerwyn's mother at the Workmen's Hall. Over a year later, Herr Ehman was able to write a letter enclosing photographs of Gerwyn's grave at Reichswald.
The photographs remained quietly in the drawer next to Gerwyn's mother's bed for the rest of her days.
Thanks to Mr and Mrs G. Griffiths of Pontamman
for the information on this page.